After the recent snowfall we had, the roads in my area are still covered in compacted snow and ice. While I did consider cancelling my lesson when I saw how bad the side roads were and also after seeing a car in a wall at the end of my road, I thought that this is the perfect opportunity to learn to drive in the ice safely. Surely it’s better to encounter snow and ice when I’m in a car with someone who knows what they are doing and dual controls instead of once I have passed my test.
Take things slowly!
Before I set off, Matt told me how some things need to be done differently on the ice. The most important thing is to take everything slowly. This means braking earlier and slower than you may normally do, to ensure that the car will actually stop.
It is also important when turning into new roads that this is done slowly. Especially if you are turning from a busy main road where the amount of ice is small, into a quieter road where the ice may still be thick in some places. Doing this just allows you to keep better control of the car.
Moving off on ice
Another thing is to ensure you move away slowly if you are stopped on a road with a lot of ice on it. Instead of moving off like you normally would, it’s more like edging forward using the clutch until you know the car will move without wheel spinning.
Once I had set off, I found it OK driving along the busier roads, but had to dramatically reduce my speed on the residential roads as these were still thick with ice.
On the residential streets, when there was no traffic coming in the opposite direction I found it much easier to drive down the middle of the road as this seemed to be the place clearest of ice. However, when I moved back to the left I managed to spin the wheels. I then realised that most modern cars have a signal on the dashboard to show if the cars wheels are spinning (I had no idea this was even a thing) which came in useful although you can obviously hear it happening too.
There was one set of traffic lights where I couldn’t get the car to go and in the end only two cars managed to get through as it had taken me so long! Basically when I released the brakes, the car was slipping backwards and lifting the clutch and pushing the accelerator at the same time didn’t seem to be getting us anywhere.
I tried again and this time lifted the clutch too quickly resulting in the car stalling. As embarrassing as this was, making these mistakes allows me to see how to fix them and what I’m doing wrong.
Beware of other road users
When it is icy, you need to make sure you are always watching other road users and try and anticipate their actions. You could be the safest driver ever and still end up in an accident, especially when it is icy, due to others using the road.
For example if you’re approaching a vehicle who has taken a corner too fast and ends up going wide, you need to be able to make a decision about what to do to ensure your safety. It may be the case that you need to stop to give them time to get back over to their side of the road, or that you can continue but need to move over slightly to avoid a collision.
I found that when going down smaller residential roads that had a lot of ice on the road, it was best to stay in second gear as my speed was about 20mph. I could have gone up to third gear however I felt like I had the car in better control in second.
Moving off uphill on ice
It’s all about changing your driving to suit the conditions that you are driving in. Matt also told me that sometimes, especially when doing uphill starts, it is best to start in second gear as it prevents the wheels from spinning as much as they might do in first. He said that when doing this it is important to make sure the biting point is just right or the car will stall, but you have to be careful with the clutch when doing uphill starts anyway so it wouldn’t be too different.
Overall I’m glad I’ve had a lesson in the ice as it’s shown me how to drive safely in these conditions. I’d be happy not to drive in the ice again though!